YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 12, 2015

The State of the Blog (3)

zombies-historyPeriodically, I report to my readers how the blog is doing, especially in contrast with competing media that also want your eyeballs. I have noticed that the term “blog” is usually derisive, for there are millions of bloggers competing with academics and journalists, while many of the bloggers, unlike professors and writers for the major websites, lack the institutional legitimacy that makes them trustworthy.

The most important point in this blog is as follows: there is nothing I put up on the Yankee Doodle Society website that is in any way different than a paper I would present to fellow academics, or an article that I would submit to an academic publisher. Whether footnotes appear or not, they are always in my head; this does not imply that I am entirely objective, for we are all limited by life experience, preferred ideology, and our access to, and interest in, primary source materials.

Why is the blog, though relatively popular, not even more widely seen? Because “moderation” is hegemonic and my blogs have traced the mostly invisible rise of the moderate men. The New Left and the Frankfurt Institute refugees (the critical theorists) did not invent or advance the turn to culturalism in the 1930s, in tandem with the New Deal assault upon freedom and its attendant laissez-faire capitalism and so-called American “imperialism.” See for example, Barton Swaim’s WSJ review of a reissued book by Roger Scruton’s Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands, that ostensibly reveals the illegitimate domination of New Leftists and critical theorists–including Gramsci, their supposed inspiration– in the academy. What Swaim leaves out (besides the social psychologists affiliated with FDR) is the introduction of multiculturalism in the early 20th century by those intellectuals who would blot out the red specter of proletarian internationalism in favor of the “progressive” internationalism of Woodrow Wilson.  And Woodrow Wilson is currently being rehabilitated by fellow corporatist liberals, despite his well-known racism.

(For the New Deal turn to cultural history at the expense of “economic determinism” and science, see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/.)

We find ourselves in the early stages of an election campaign for the American presidency, horribly distracted by terrorism in France and San Bernardino, while the media establishment has kittens over the popularity of businessman and populist outsider Donald J. Trump. Currently, I am reading Milton Friedman’s popular book Capitalism and Freedom (1962), for I have exhausted myself in writing about what I already studied in graduate school and in the years following: the Melville Revival, the chief actors in the rise of cultural history and modern social psychology, the many faces of antisemitism, the founding of Israel, ongoing resistance to modernity, the various forms of fascism, and psychological warfare in general.

Stay tuned, as I find points of agreement and disagreement with the “Chicago school” of economics, and whether or not there exists a decisive international population of “moderate Muslims” who will arouse themselves to brake the (“Islamist”) jihadists among them.


July 7, 2011

“Network” and its offspring

Ned Beatty as "Arthur Jensen"

On July 4, 2011, comedian Conan O’Brian picked the movie Network (1976) as the feature film for Turner Classic Movies.  It has been lauded as a prefiguration of “reality television” (and, I gather, a major cause  of the dumbing down of American and world culture). This was probably the third time I had seen the movie, but the first time that it bothered me as a counter-culture and antimodern script, following a strong tendency in post-WW2 America to blame the rise of Nazism on mass culture and its susceptibility to technological advances—advances that only enhanced the power of demagogues such as Hitler and Mussolini—themselves the stooges of hidebound big industry/ finance capital.

Paddy Chayefsky was the script-writer of Network. In one interview, he said that his friend Budd Schulberg’s previous movie, A Face in the Crowd, made it possible to write Network. (Chayefsky also wrote the teleplay for Schulberg’s novel What Makes Sammy Run.) We may now add the names of Chayefsky, Schulberg, the Frankfurt School of critical theorists, and Friedrich Meinecke to the network of those intellectuals attributing the rise of Hitler to mass media (particularly to radio); i.e., to “the revolt of the masses.” I have written about such claims here (https://clarespark.com/2009/12/16/perceptions-of-the-enemy-the-left-looks-at-the-right-and-vice-versa/;* and here: https://clarespark.com/2011/06/19/index-to-links-on-hitler-and-the-big-lie/).   (I have not written about such counter-culture authors as Gerry Mander or Jacques Ellul or Ivan Illich, or Theodore Roszak, whose stars have dimmed.)

I was particularly interested in the naming of the movie’s arch-villain “Arthur Jensen” for that is the name of a geneticist who, it is said, is a downright white supremacist, along with a cohort that includes Richard Herrnstein, J. Philippe Rushton, Charles Murray, and others who aroused the ire of the Left and New Left. Since Jensen’s work was already known and controverted in the 1960s and 1970s by such left or liberal luminaries as Harvard professors Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lowentin , I gather that the name selected for the head of the mega-corporation that controlled the fictional network in the movie, was no accident. Moreover, “Arthur Jensen” invites “Howard Beale” into a conference room that Jensen describes as “Valhalla.” The connection between Nazism and globalization could not have been made more clear.

Although Network was released decades ago, its analysis of the decline of our political culture, particularly the destruction of the individual as a human being, may remain timely. One aspiring academic (a Ph.D. Candidate  in American Studies and  Film Studies has called for papers at an upcoming conference titled “On Television.” Here is the call for papers as issued by  Claudia Calhoun at Yale U. It was posted on the Humanities Net for American Studies.

From: Claudia Calhoun <claudia.calhoun@yale.edu>

Date: Sat, Jul 2, 2011 at 6:03 PM

On Television

Yale University

February 3-4, 2012

We all watch television. But in this moment of dispersed and fragmented viewership, we all engage with television differently: as an entertainment medium, a home appliance, a range of program content, a
description of viewing behavior, a set of technologies, a media industry, and a means for collective social experiences. Both technological platform and cultural form, television sits at the intersection of a number of humanities and social science disciplines. As observers of — and participants in — this contemporary moment, we are compelled to ask: What makes television television?

This conference will address contemporary trends in the field of television studies and reconsider the historical currents that inform our understandings of the present and prospective future of the medium.
Proposed topics include:

– the changing contexts of production and issues of labor

– the politics of television

– aesthetic and formal responses to the changing
landscape of programming

– television as a national and transnational space

– theorizing contemporary television

– the place of “television studies” in a new
media context. [end, excerpt from CFP]

It would not be surprising if the same generational angst that produced Network, will be visible in some of the papers accepted for the Yale conference. If so, we can expect the same dim view that Schulberg and Chayefsky took of the new dehumanizing techniques that (racist) global corporations had inflicted upon an unwary public mind, defeating true artists such as themselves–always looking out for the little guy.

* What follows is the material on Schulberg that possibly inspired Chayefsky, included in a prior blog:

“As for those artists who once were reds in the 1930s, many of them shifted to populism/progressivism when they saw that the Communist Party wanted to control their work. Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan, both anathematized for “naming names”  are two examples. I was particularly disturbed by their film, A Face in the Crowd (1957), that pinned fascism on the media-worshipping mass audience that had elevated the loutish “Lonesome Rhodes,” whose meteoric career had been aided and abetted by a female sentimental liberal–a stand-in for the moral mother, perhaps the figure who had driven them into the arms of the 1930s authoritarian Left. In other words, though Schulberg and Kazan  professed themselves to be progressives, they replicated the aristocratic explanation for fascism as “the revolt of the masses,” bamboozled by the new mass media (radio and television), and shadowed by anti-progressive old money, particularly as embodied in immoral and hidebound Southern politicians.

Here are some quotes from the screenplay: Lonesome Rhodes (the demagogue who has risen from the People):  “You made me, Marcia.  You made me, Marcia, I owe it all to you.” [Marcia, the arty, sentimental Liberal]:”I know it.”  Marcia, explicitly linked to “marshes” (i.e.,quagmires) and ever the guilty mother, finally aware of the duplicity of her monstrous birth, opens the microphone to expose Lonesome’s secret contempt for the TV audience (the common folk) who adore him and who would turn the State over to his fascist backers. [Lonesome Rhodes is ruined:]  “It was the sound man.  I’ll get that dirty stinking little mechanical genius [who did this to me].”  [Marcia:] “It was me.”  The Muckraker’s last words rectify the sentiment of Lonesome’s banner (“There’s nothing so trustworthy as the ordinary mind of the ordinary man.”)  [Muckraking journalist to Marcia:] “You were taken in.  But we get wise to him [the Lonesome/Hitler type]; that’s our strength.”  Mama’s boy, a.k.a. Lonesome’s last words wailed from a balcony (and the night) as Marcia and the muckraker depart:  “Marcia, don’t leave me…come back.” That Marcia destroyed her monstrous birth is missing from Nicholas Beck’s “bio-bibliography” of Schulberg (2001), where Lonesome is supposed to be the agent of his own destruction (p.59, fn4, quoting Donald Chase).” [end, excerpt from my blog “Perceptions of the Enemy….”]

For a New York Public Library short biography of Chayefsky, see http://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/archivalcollections/pdf/thechaye.pdf.

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